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~Chapter III: Festival Prep Fright~

"...This is..."

Now beyond the red, gold trimmed double doors, the boy takes in the scenery. Stopping in his tracks, he rotates himself in place to take in the sights and sounds of the city that sprang to life before his eyes.

The restored city has a beige to warm, red-brown color scheme, though the red and gold of what Maeveren assumes is the festival decor makes the color scheme lean warm and bright, offsetting the beige. Stairs that line the sides of some buildings or lead down to lower parts of the city are lined with iron rails, designs of plant life curled between the supporting beams. The rails have red ribbons and lanterns hanging from them. The roofs of the buildings are restored back to a purple and blue color, though some are now a vibrant red. he could see that the doors are built into a sturdy wall, which encased the city's whole perimeter as far as he could tell. The strange alphabet, which Maeveren calls "ancient Ichor" in his head, persists in some places, such as on some of the tiling and the sides of buildings, but for the most part, shop signs, welcome mats, and even what the people are speaking is replaced by Anglian and a few other modern languages Maeveren can't decipher, but has seen and heard in his tomes back at the academy.

Ridiculously tall ladders line the streets. At their tops, people with long, floppy-eared ear accessories slapped stickers onto the restored purple-colored ceilings of the buildings, and with black paint wrote odd characters onto the ceilings of others. Their floppy ears made Maeveren pay closer attention to the people around him a little more, as they began to become more and more odd as they passed him by.

Though the diverse people of the city look like everyday folk, some of them boast candy-colored hair, coming in blues, reds, oranges, yellows, and even whites. Some people have black hair, brown hair, and blonde hair, but even those folks have oddities that made their hair only emphasize their odd accessories, such as their strange, elongated faces or their strange eyes, which have beast-like qualities. Some people, both candy-haired and not have horn accessories, realistic scales painted onto their bodies, or have glued animal features to their bodies, such as feathers and fur. A few people even have digitigrade leg accessories, as well as tail and animal ear accessories. Every now and then, someone would walk by with oddly colored skin, which came in warm and cool colors, contrasting the fleshy beiges and browns Maeveren is used to. Though they are all humanoid, Maeveren couldn't help but raise a brow at the dedication shown their costumes.

"...Has All Hollows Eve come early? What's with all of the getup? These are some of the best costumes I've ever seen. Maybe I went back in time to a harvest festival?"

Realizing he is in the way of the people coming in, he walks down the street he did just yesterday with a newfound nosiness. Once he reaches the town square, he is struck with even more awe, which is impressive, considering he was already mesmerized by the city. The same street that was once overgrown and beyond repair was now full of people going to and fro, the buildings repaired, the clothing lines lined with red paper lanterns.

"...What's that up ahead? What a beautiful sight!"

A large, oriental building can be seen in the distance. A large set of stairs lead up to the building's gate, which has a beautiful garden beyond it. The stairs leading up to it is filled with people, so much so that the stairs are almost eclipsed by them. The statue of the smiling woman was decorated in ribbons and lanterns, and her robes were painted gold, red, and orange, intricate designs depicting nature and divine-looking animals drawn with thin linework over the base colors.

"...I'm...overwhelmed...I would ask questions, but everyone is too busy to indulge me. I think for now, I'll try to get information in a less bustling place...oh, I know! In old societies, no place is as good for gathering information as an inn is! Let's see if I can find one..."

With a sharp exhale, the boy walks around the city aimlessly in the hopes of finding an inn of some sort. By the time an hour had passed, he had navigated this paticular part of the city so many times that he made a mental map for it. It is shaped roughly like a pie piece, one slice of a while circle, evidenced by the two arched entrances to the culturally different looking parts of the city he found at the edges of the slice, and the curve the city walls have. Within the part he finds himself in, the district has one large circular town square, which then leads into many other walkable streets that shoot in all directions. Each street is lined with shops, stalls, and decor of some kind. What shocked him the most, however, was the modernity of the city, from electric signs, to a few cars and roads being seen in his glimpses to other districts, to the fairy lights being hung my the residents, and the prevelance of a paticular culture, which puzzles him greatly.

"This...this slice...it's like Lihua! And the technology is too advanced to be from 500 years ago...just what on earth is going on in this time period?"

Though he is puzzled, he feels a joyful feeling arise within him, making his confusing give way to excitement. He shakes his head at the time bending mystery, and carries on with his mission of finding an inn in the hopes that he will get answers.

He tries every street once again, this time starting from the town square eith each comb through. Many of the shops and services are in hidden nooks and crannies of the city, making reading signs and finding an inn a hassle still. Eventually, to his frustration, he found an inn by following a street right back to the double doors. To the west of them, a well-hidden staircase led to a small cul-de-sac with no more than five shops lined around the curve. One of the shops has a sign that says "The Changeling's Retreat" in modern Anglian, which, while confusing, amused Maeveren somewhat.

"A retreat for changelings, huh? Is this a guild hall or an inn? ...It's worth peeking into!"

Without further delay, he walks down the stairs and into the cozy plaza, which had less people compared to the main street. Decorations seem to already be done, and most people in the little cul-de-sac are sitting around eating desserts, playing hop scotch, or talking on a bench. Just like everyone else, these people looked mostly human, but a few had oddities that are hard for Maeveren to ignore.

"Is hop scotch that ancient of a game? Ah-I'm getting distracted."

Taking his mind off of that, he walks into what he thinks is an inn. It was mostly desolate, save for one person at the counter, though they seemed sucked into a newspaper that blocks their face from view. The inside is plain in design-stone floors that matched the tiling outside, wooden tables with seats as long as the table itself, and a few kegs linedthe west and east walls. Colorful posters lined the walls above the kegs, and upon closer inspection, Maeveren could see a few advertisements, some of which were for sodas and juices. One poster in patricular, which was taped onto the left wall of the inn, stood out to him, however.

An oriental building with a long set of stairs is front and center in the advert, with a gold trim and a red background behind it. In front of black colored characters, which he now recognizes as Lihua's writing system, in plain Anglian it reads "Wushan Inn and Resort-relax, bathe, eat, and enjoy traditional Lihuanese theatre." In tiny letters under this, it adds: "Located at the very North of the Wu District."

"Oh...THAT'S an inn? It looks like a bloody temple of some kind! And it looked swamped with business...so this is the Wu District...and the Lihua influence can be felt everywhere...interesting..."

"Excuse me, lad! Are you a customer?"


Maeveren almost jumps out of his skin at hearing the voice.

"Ohohoho, forgive me! I just noticed you over there-the Wus take all of my business during festival time, so I expected no customers today. Forgive my lack of acknowledging you when you walked in."

An old man approaches him, using a simple wooden cane to balance himself. He is bald, but has a beard so long it sprawls onto the floor, making a trail behind him and to behind the counter. He has a long lose and large glasses with golden wing designs sticking from around the top of the round lenses, as well as pale skin and sharp ears that droop downward some. He wears what appears to be traditonal wizard's robes, colored purple, a brown belt keeping it conformed to his body. Brown sandals peek from under the purple robes.

"I-I...I'm a customer, I suppose. Do I need to pay to...get information? And food? All I have is...diamants."

"...Hohohoho. No, talking is a free act, lad. However, given the circumstances, I will give up this right off the bat-you're in danger, lad-but not in the way you think you are."

"Ugh, not that talk again! Look, I'm here to get records on this ancient city, but the more I walk around, things just don't make sense. I need you to tell me what's happened to the city for it to become so...modern. What year is it? Am I back in time, really? Is this really how Santenica was? How did the city just spring to life before...my...are you laughing!?"

The old man is, right in his face. His laugh becomes a cackle. It takes a moment for him to gain composure. Maeveren can feel his cheeks turn red.

"W-what's so funny!?"

"Forgive me, child. It's just...well, you being here, while dangerous for you, is also a good break from the monotony of innkeeper life. Come-sit at the bar, right at the counter. First drink is on the house-I have orange juice, milk, grape juice..."

"...What? You don't even know me."

"Sure I don't-but hospitality is how I treat all who walk in my doors, no matter who they are. Now, come. You're going to need this drink, lad. It'll ensure your survival, and it'll...ah, nevermind it. Just enjoy some old fashioned Santenica hospitality, alright? There's no need to be all on guard."

"Okay. I'll take any drink, since you're doing this for free. ...Beggars can't be choosers."

"See? Relax a little. For one so young, you seem so high strung. You can't be any older than 16, with a body that small and frail. My name's Merlinus, by the way. And before you reply-I suggest you keep your name to yourself, until you have the upmost faith in my good intentions."

The old man chuckles, and walks behind the counter. Maeveren takes a seat, but not without noticing the old man's other oddity, aside from his drooping ears-a mouse-like tail with a tuft of hair at the end.

"Alright. Here's some grape juice. On the house."

With a swirling motion of his cane, a cup of grape juice manifests in front of Maeveren, swirling in circles in place in the air until Maeveren grabs it.

"...Wow, your magic is strong. Even the older people at my academy can't teleport things like that."

"Teleport is...I suppose it's something like that, hehehe! Ahem-now then...the time for small talk is over. I think it's about time you get some answers, lad-but I won't be spoonfeeding them to you. I think it's best you see it for yourself, and put it all together in that noggin' of yours."

"W-what do you-"

"Drink that juice. Even one sip is better than no sip. Once you're done, you can stay here 'till night falls-when it does, I encourage you to go outside. That will answer at least half of your concerns."

"...Is that a threat? What'll happen when I go outside? I may look weak, but I have magic at my disposal, you know."

"Ohohoho, no, child-I'd never-I'm too old to be cajoling folks anymore! I'm just an old coot with an inn to run. But I do think this will be a more...fun and interactive way of learning about the city you found yourself in. Especially since you're a resident already, in a way."


Too tired to argue, Maeveren sits at the bar, sipping at his grape juice with a now uneasy mind.

"With the way he's talking, I'm starting to think I did make a mistake-but surely this will be worth the trouble. Whatever lies ahead, I'll face it without fear."

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Author's Notes

Maeveren is having an okayish time. Maybe he's even wishing he had a cool costume. Or not. He's not very fun to have at parties.

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